It was a novel suggestion. What would I say to my former spouse if given the opportunity? We haven't spoken in nearly two decades. Twenty five years of marriage is so far behind me now that most of my life has been without him.
The hurt he left behind surfaces occasionally with me and our sons. We long ago learned to deal with it and push it back in the shadows where it belongs. I wonder if he knows of that paternal legacy.
I used to think he was my bridge over troubled water. Now I realize that notion was reversed. His demons far exceeded mine.
There was a time when I missed him so much I ached. That feeling left me years ago and never returned. My biggest battle today is suppressing regret for time lost in a marriage that was doomed from the very beginning.
Our oldest son saw the demise of the family before we did. He told me that when he was barely a teenager it was already evident. We may have been fooling ourselves but not him.
Childhood sweethearts can be both a boon and a bane. In our situation is was the latter. He skillfully exploited my innocence. I grew up after he left, a painful but invigorating process.
This is what I would say if given the opportunity. Our conversation would include the following anecdote, questions, and observations.
We are not the only family to experience this type of abandonment.
Last summer, our oldest grandchild, all of seven years old, asked " What happened? Why don't you live together?" I hope someday he asks you the same question and that you have the grace to answer the question honestly. Not wink and toss it off as a joke as you are wont to do or dismiss it as all just "water under the bridge."
This time you got a pass on your behaviour thanks to our son who fielded the question rather skillfully. No mention of your trademark deception and dishonesty. Seven years old is too young to know the truth. But someday he will know the answer.
Our sons are our greatest asset together. They are dedicated to their families. I worried about that because of the example you had set as a husband and father. Did your parenting choices ever concern you? For many years they were fatherless.
I would ask you about the phenomenon that a father can walk away from a family and turn a corner and not look back. We are not the only family to experience this type of abandonment. I don't understand how men, mostly, can have little family contact for years on end. A Facebook connection with the odd puerile quip is hardly parenting.
I would ask you about how you lived a lie every day of our marriage. I get stuck on that fact I must confess. Over 20 years later and it still gets me. Every memory of our life together from high school forward is couched with the fact it was all a lie. Every profession of love, everything you ever said or did was framed by your lies.
I would tell you one of the best decisions I ever made was reclaiming my maiden name. I have a colleague to thank for the change. He refused to address me by my married name after the divorce details emerged. So almost by default I went back to my 'maiden' name and for 20 odd years I am grateful every single day I did that. It is a name worthy of that honour.
I still want to know the name of the silent partner in our marriage that you have refused to reveal.
I would tell you I miss sharing this time of life with children and a gaggle of grandchildren. At least with -the you- the fatherly pastiche you wore so well. All of that is framed with the possibility you never really cared about any of it. Our life together might be nothing more to you than photo ops, well placed good deeds and empty words of sincerity to cover your secrets.
I would observe, that, as is often the case in divorce, you ended up much more financially secure than I did. However, my freedom from you is priceless.
I would ask you those questions and then doubt your answers. Would you just tell me what you think I want to hear, something you do very well or would you be honest? I am not sure what an honest answer sounds like coming from you.
I used to think ours was a great love until I found the real deal. I used to be afraid of you but I am not anymore. I still want to know the name of the silent partner in our marriage that you have refused to reveal.
And thus the conversation would end in an egregious manner, just like our marriage.
More than 20 years of silence is a lifetime. Perhaps it is all water under the bridge.
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